'Let Me In' - Now Playing at the PNCA Auditorium, Islamabad

'Let Me In' - Now Playing at the PNCA Auditorium, Islamabad
Click on the image to visit the play's official Facebook group.

Monday, October 4, 2010

After a two-year hiatus – Ta-dah! I’m back!

And with a new play!

Where did I go, you ask? Well, I guess you could say I was trying to get my groove back. Great - now I sound like the Terry McMillan novel. But no, I didn’t realize at the time, but I had invested so much into Superstar Avatar – the script, trying to make it a perfect ode to Bollywood – that I needed a break. Or at least, something to take me back to the roots, back to what made theatre raw and exciting and perhaps without the burden of expectation.

Fortunately, an opportunity to direct an LGS play (The Nit Wits, 2009) came a-knocking, and that was perhaps just what the doctor ordered. Working with students, practically none of them having previous ‘exposure’ to theatre (and all of its trappings – the good, the bad, the ugly), feeding off their enthusiasm; it was a challenge of a different kind, and one that helped me rediscover why I loved doing theatre in the first place.

The cast and crew of the Nit Wits - wonderful, talented students from LGS (Photo by Omar Khalid Butt)

Later in the year came an opportunity to be part of a short film called The Silent Verse by UK-based BAFTA-nominated director Hammad Khan - and that was just the prelude to an ever bigger opportunity: Slackistan. I loved the concept - it was a coming-of-age film, and yet so undeniably 'Islamabad'; I was glad the city finally got a voice. Plus, the character was challenging; had to tone down on the 'theatricality' that's much-required onstage and what's sort of become my trademark. Plus, how many actors get to boast they've done two Islamabad-based films within a span of three years? The experience was wonderful; Hammad is an excellent director, he allows you to interpret the character all the while keeping in mind his original vision.

Late last year, I acted in two plays as well [felt good to revert back to the days of yore; all the bitching, none of the ‘directorial’ pressure]. One role was that of a cook, in a bilingual play called Flight 420, directed by Shafqat Khan. The second, perhaps one of my most cherished roles after (or alongside) Edward from Freedom Bound and Jerry from Some Like It Hot, was that of a mentally disabled character (‘Michal’) in The Pillowman, directed by Junaid Malik. The second role in particular, to repeat a phrase, helped me rediscover myself as an actor.

Flight 420 (Photo by Omar Khalid Butt)

The Pillowman (Photo by Omar Khalid Butt)

This year saw me back to the director’s chair with LGS and back in all my pop-culture-referencing glory with Lights Out!, and working with the youngest cast I’ve ever had. (The average age was 15.) Another madcap adventure.

I also attended a ‘Broadway Bridges’ workshop in February, where I gave singing another shot since – 2005? (That was when I did Moulin Rouge & Beauty and the Beast.) I was incredibly nervous, because there were some really talented singers onboard for the workshop, but I have to say, Michael Masterson, (our choreographer and singing coach of ‘American Voices’) was such an inspirational mentor, I’ve been recording my voice on a webcam since and giving my best friend migraines as I make her listen to each track. (There’s a ‘Truly, Madly, Deeply’ cover in there. It’s not pretty.) Call it Glee-syndrome.

Lights Out! (Photo by Omar Khalid Butt)

Broadway Bridges (Photo by Omar Khalid Butt)

The Suicide (Photo by Omar Khalid Butt)

Next came The Suicide, directed (again) by Junaid Malik. That was a stressful but rewarding experience; took me the longest time to finally ‘grasp’ my character; a bourgeois, manipulative member of the intelligentsia.

Of course, I have also been steadily involved with ‘Insolent Knights’ (check out their Facebook page!) - have thus far performed at all their open-act nights, and it's been a delight!

But enough about me. Let’s talk about the play! It’s scheduled, insha Allah, for mid-October – that’s just a couple of weeks away, yikes! Rehearsals are well underway, and we’re all psyched here at the Living Picture. Naturally, it’s all rather hush-hush because I want you guys to be surprised. But of course, I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t want to give you something to be excited about. *sly grin*

More on that in my next blog post, though! I will be updating this blog regularly now, insha Allah. So stay tuned!

Obi

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